Who gets benefits at taxpayers' expense?


Earlier this month Katherine Gregg of the Providence Journal wrote an excellent analysis about those on state public assistance. The news story focused on immigrants (more about that later) but there were explosive tidbits in her article. Questions have to be raised about the implementation of aid to folks, particularly the 3,419 people without social security numbers who are collecting subsidies.

First, there are 318,000 people collecting some form of welfare. That is about a third of the entire population in the state. How can that ratio be maintained? When you think about it not only does John Q. Public cough up taxes to pay these “bennies” but also has to pay for the thousands upon thousands of people who administer the programs. Rhode island is, indeed, the welfare state in the fullest sense of the term.

Then, we learn that over 3400 people collect benefits without having a social security number. Reasons offered by the Raimondo administration as “explanations” are ridiculous. Recent arrivals to the state — even refugees — supposedly have to have a social security number. Newborns are supposed to get social security numbers. Without such numbers there is no way to know whether the recipient is double or triple dipping on benefits from other states. It is beyond the ken that people are processed for public assistance without providing a social security number to be cross checked with other states' programs.

Now on to the undocumented status of the recipients, of whom a state spokesperson said that there are fewer than 750 here. As Ms. Gregg points out in her story, the state doesn’t have an exact number of folks without proper credentials to be here. Nor could the state tell the reporter how much aid the “undocumented” received, how many of the 3419 people without a social security number are refugees, or how much they cost the taxpayers.

Does anything run right in this state? UHIP is a mess. The Department of Motor Vehicles computers are a problem. The court system computers were malfunctioning. It is an outrage that millions of dollars are spent on state salaries and other non-profit organizations to implement programs for the truly needy, while the systems are unreliable. Further, what kind of state leadership is there that has a third of the state on the dole?

There is a certain irony to the fact that corporate welfare is also being handed out left and right to attract businesses here and to the 195 land. Corporate bigwigs have come into the state for their cut of the “gimme” pie. Folks seem oblivious that this is a giveaway state. I ask myself over and over as to when the folks who pay the bills are finally going to rise up and protest. Aren’t we entitled to a system that works — even if recipients don’t?

I recently returned from Terceira in the Azores. Traveling around the island I saw groups of people working on road repair, cleanup, painting etc., all of whom received some cash assistance. Work was a requirement. Less than 5 percent of those receiving benefits for themselves or their families were unable to work and therefore excused from the requirement. No such expectation exists in RI.

As bad as “Cooler and Warmer” was as a state slogan, the “Hand-out State” is even worse.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet


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